Isuzu UTE A-League season preview: Perth Glory

THE off-season arrival of a former Liverpool FC star has brought an air of optimism to Perth Glory ahead of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League campaign, with the club confident of resurfacing in the Finals Series after a one-season absence. 

Head coach Richard Garcia has a young, hungry squad on his hands, bolstered by the likes of seasoned goalkeeper Brad Jones and the striking prowess, worldly experience and iconic dance moves of former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge.

Major ins

Daniel Sturridge, Brad Jones, Aaron Calver, Jack Clisby, Brandon O’Neill, Adrian Sardinero

Major outs

Tando Velaphi, Jason Geria, Dane Ingham, Sebastian Langkamp, Neil Kilkenny, Brandon Wilson, Nick D’Agostino, Chris Ikonomidis

Head coach: Richard Garcia

Glory record: 26 games, nine wins, seven draws, ten losses

Garcia takes control of Perth’s Isuzu UTE A-League squad for the second season after a mixed bag of results in 2020/21. A strong run of form to the end of the season – which saw Garcia’s side lose just one of their last eight games – will have the 40-year-old confident he can build on that momentum in a new campaign.

Can’t take your eyes off… Daniel Sturridge

It’s the box-office signing of the off-season; one that will contend as one of the biggest in Isuzu UTE A-League history – that is, of course, if the Englishman can produce the performances to match his reputation.

At 32 years of age, the former England international arrives in Perth ready to prove his doubters wrong after a 19-month absence from competitive football. He’s refreshed, he’s injury-free, and he’s raring to go in 2021/22 – defenders around the league, proceed with caution.

Liverpool boss Jürgenn Klopp once described Sturridge as one of the most talented players he has ever seen. And how can you blame him? At his best, firing on all cylinders with Liverpool strike partner Luis Suarez in the 2013/14 English Premier League campaign, Sturridge was unplayable. He scored 21 goals and notched seven assists in that season alone, combining with Suarez for 52 league goals and 19 assists. 

Tickets to see the Englishman in full flight will be in high-demand as Sturridge looks to re-capture the form that made him a household name.

Sturridge speaks with new strike partner Bruno Fornaroli as Perth prepare to face Adelaide United in Round 1 of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season

Reasons to be cheerful 

We’ve seen Sturridge tear Premier League defences apart with a Uruguayan striker by his side at Liverpool. Could it now be time for fellow Uruguayan Bruno Fornaroli to help him do the same in the Isuzu UTE A-League?

The Glory faithful will hope so, as will the neutrals who tune into Paramount+ and Channel 10 in anticipation of Sturridge hitting his stride, converting the kind of goals fans of English football grew accustomed to him producing in the Red and Blue of Liverpool and Chelsea.

Behind Sturridge and Fornaroli, fresh opportunities await for the players competing for positions in central midfield to step forward into the sizeable gap left in the squad by the departed Kilkenny. The likes of 21-year-old Callum Timmins and Daniel Stynes, 23, will look to become more prominent figures in the Glory side this season, aided by the returning Brandon O’Neill who brings a touch of class to the engine room.

Of the 15 players that featured in Perth’s 2018/19 Grand Final defeat to Sydney FC, only two remain: Liam Reddy and Andy Keogh. The spotlight shines now on a new generation of Glory players ready to guide the men’s side toward similar success.

Brandon O’Neill pressures fellow Glory recruit Pacifique Niyongabire for possession

… and reasons to be fearful

Perth begin the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season with one home game, followed by five games in a row on the road leading into the New Year. Fixtures dictated by the nation’s COVID climate deemed it necessary for Garcia’s side to hit the road, allowing fans from across the land to get an early sight of Glory’s new gun striker. 

Should Perth fail to pick up consistent points on the road early doors, Garcia may find his side out of reach of the top six by 2022. But, should the boys in purple start strong, a backlog of home fixtures to end the season will leave Glory fans with plenty of confidence that finals football is back on the menu.

The prospect of seeing Sturridge and Fornaroli woking in tandem up front for Perth is a tantalising one – but questions remain about the team’s defensive solidity. Perth shipped 44 goals in 26 games throughout 2020/21. 

Jack Clisby and Aaron Calver have come through the door in the off-season, but the departure of Jason Geria, Dane Ingham, Sebastian Langkamp and Riley Warland leaves a backline led by Darryl Lachman stretched rather thin at this stage of pre-season. 

There’s firepower in this Glory squad – that much is undeniable. But whether the Garcia’s side have enough weaponry to outlast enemy attacks remains to be seen.

Fans’ eye – David Winkless

Why I believe: Because of the mateship that I’ve had through the club. 

There’s four guys that I met in the pre-match pub one day.  We all just happened to be sitting at the same table, didn’t know each other, got chatting and then of course we started seeing each other at games. That’s how we all became mates. 

I didn’t have too many friends before I started going to Glory games, and ever since I started going to Glory games I gained a whole bunch of mates, and that’s what makes the football so fun. It’s not just about going to the football, it’s about going to the football with your mates, catching up with them and having a day out,

Who we believe: Bruno Fornaroli. Certainly after Diego Castro Bruno was the one last year who got a lot of fan’s support. We had a chant for him in The Shed which used to take off, and that was really good. I would say Bruno Fornaroli would probably be the player people look most forward to watching. 

I am very lucky, I was in England in 2013 and I attended a Liverpool match in which Daniel Sturridge scored. I’ve seen him play before in England for Liverpool away to Aston Villa. As soon as I heard we’d signed Daniel Sturridge, it was a big name from the Premier League and I just knew he was going to get the interest back in the Glory.

The magic of match day is: There’s really no superstitions. My match day routine, I’d wake up, have breakfast and a coffee at home, and then around lunchtime me and my core group of mates normally go and have lunch. After that we start making our way to a bar where everybody else is congregating, we go there for a few drinks before we head to HBF Park.

When we arrive at the game, all we want to see as fans from our team is effort. I think that’s what not just myself but most supporters want to see: that the boys out on the park, and those that come off the bench are giving their all. 

That’s all you want to see, just the effort.

If I could change one thing about the club… I would say the game experience, more so the pre-game experience. Certainly back in the day that whole pre-match experience and the half-time entertainment, that’s what got a lot of people to the Glory games as well. It wasn’t just going for the football, you were going for the full experience. That’s probably something I would change. 

Glory fan David Winkless poses with former Glory captain Diego Castro

Our Isuzu UTE A-League Season Previews

By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Veart steer them into the decider?

Brisbane Roar: Will the local lads surprise again?

Central Coast Mariners: A renaissance or brief ray of sunshine?

Macarthur FC: Attack looks great, but who replaces the veterans?

Melbourne City: Can anyone stop the champions?

Melbourne Victory: Can Popa resurrect the fallen giant?

Newcastle Jets: Can Papas find success with another overhaul?

Perth Glory: Are box office Glory title contenders?

Sydney FC: A familiar feel in Sky Blue – do they have another gear?

Wellington Phoenix: Can the ‘Nix thrive early doors based in Wollongong?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Will Robinson rise to expectations?

Western United: Will more ‘Dia’ magic help United bounce back?